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Diabetic retinopathy can be found during a dilated eye exam. This exam is done by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. An exam by your primary doctor, during which your eyes aren't dilated, isn't the same. You need a full exam done by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Eye exams for people with diabetes can include:
Visual acuity testing.
This test measures how well the eye can focus and see details at near and far distances. It can help find vision loss and other problems.
Ophthalmoscopy and slit lamp exam.
These tests allow your doctor to see the back of the eye and other structures inside the eye. They may be used to find clouding of the lens (cataract), changes in the retina, and other problems.
This test measures the pressure inside the eye. This is called intraocular pressure (IOP). The test is used to help find glaucoma. Diabetes can increase your risk of glaucoma.
Your doctor may also do a test called an optical coherence tomography (OCT) to check for fluid in your retina. Sometimes a fluorescein angiogram is done to check for and locate leaking blood vessels in the retina. Your doctor may want you to have this test if you have symptoms, such as blurred or distorted vision, that suggest damage to or swelling of the retina.
Fundus photography can track changes in the eye over time in people who have diabetic retinopathy and especially in those who have been treated for it. This test makes accurate pictures of the back of the eye (the fundus). An eye doctor can compare pictures taken at different times to watch the progression of the disease and find out how well treatment is working. But the photos don't take the place of a full eye exam.
People who have diabetes are also at higher risk for other eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts. Regular dilated eye exams can help find these diseases early. And they can prevent or delay vision loss.